Values and Methods

We conduct our work in accordance with a set of values about working with teens and adults.

In general, the Search Institute’s articulation of development assets  for teens helps guide our work.

The Core Beliefs for Working With Teens by Dr. Michael Carrera (Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program) inform our teaching and counseling of teens.

Our work with parents is especially guided by A. Rae Simpson’s Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action (Boston: Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health, 2001).  Simpson’s definition of the “The Ten Tasks of Adolescence” and her “Five Basics of Parenting Adolescents” are the best expressions of these concepts we have seen and highly useful to our work.

In terms of methods, we strongly encouraged schools we work with to offer evidence-based sexuality education programs.  The Family Planning Association of Maine supports schools throughout the state (free curricula and training, continuing consultation) to provide this type of sexuality education.  These are the programs which have been shown through rigorous evaluation to produce results in terms of goals such as increased use of condoms and delaying first sexual behavior.  However, the schools in Somerset County, with a few exceptions, have not been receptive to offering these multi-session programs.  We think the reasons are that Somerset County schools experience significant difficulties and stress because of low academic performance in general, as well as budget stresses that discourage the commitment of staff time for training and teaching.

In this context, we decided to develop our own curricula and offer our services at no cost as guest teachers.  We evaluate our programs with pre- and post-class surveys, but we do not claim that our classes show results according to the criteria of evidence  required in the rigorously evaluated programs.

Am I Ready for Sex? Questions to Ask Yourself, the one-hour class for high school students, was rehearsed and reviewed by the Advisory Board as well as four students from the Marti Stevens Learning Center, the alternative high school in Skowhegan, Maine.  The “Script” for health and counseling professionals, Talking With Teens About Sex, was also reviewed by a panel of students and the Board.  Both documents were revised according to their comments.

We believe in involving young people in teaching our subjects to both teens and adults.  We have two young adult teaching interns, whom we train and pay.  They have major teaching responsibilities in all classes.  We encourage and support their pursuit of higher education.

Results? Over the seven years of our program, teen pregnancy rates in Somerset County have declined slightly.  We do not claim this is a direct result of our efforts.  We do believe that we are offering valuable support and information to teens, parents and health professionals.  Much work remains to be done.